How to save the United States

Would you like to know how to save the United States? The SS United States that is, the last remaining US-flagged transAtlantic superliner which has been pretty much just sitting around rusting at a Philadelphia pier since 1996, needs our help. An independent national non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting, revitalizing and promoting America’s flagship seen here parked in Philadelphia. The goal is for the ship to be a multi-use complex that will include hospitality, retail, dining, entertainment, and educational offerings. But the clock is ticking, the SS United States Conservancy group has a limited amount of time to get plans in place.
In order for these goals to be accomplished, the SS United States Conservancy needs to raise funds and public awareness about the vessel’s special role and this opportunity to preserve and protect an inspiring chapter of American history. The SS United States will lead a successful second life as a 21st century travel destination, museum, and showcase for American leadership.

The significance of the SS United States is hard to overstate. The ship remains the largest passenger vessel constructed in the United States and the fastest ocean liner to ever cross the North Atlantic (both eastbound and westbound). By today’s standards, the SS United States is not a large ship. At 53,330 tons, the ship could easily hide behind one of Royal Caribbean’s massive Oasis-class ships that come in at 225, 282 tons.

On its maiden voyage on the Fourth of July in 1952, SS United States broke the transatlantic speed record held by Queen Mary for the previous 14 years by over 10 hours, making the maiden crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes at an average speed of 35.59 knots (40.96 mph). Today’s Queen Mary 2 currently operates a transatlantic sailing schedule with no stops that takes 6 days. The SS United States was really moving fast across the ocean.

The liner also broke the westbound crossing record by returning to America in 3 days 12 hours and 12 minutes at an average speed of 34.51 knots (39.71 mph), winning both the eastbound and westbound speed records marking the first time a U.S. flagged ship had held the speed record since the SS Baltic claimed the prize a century earlier. Most large mass-market vessels have top speeds around 21-24 knots. Smaller vessels and boats designed for long distances can go a few knots faster. The Queen Mary 2, for instance, can do 29 knots which is considered really fast for a large cruise ship.

Plans for the ship’s redevelopment include both an investment portion, concentrating on her establishment as a multi-use waterfront development, and a non-profit portion focusing on developing a world-class museum and educational program aboard the vessel. In the artists rendering above we see the SS United States as it might appear refurbished and docked in Miami, much like the Queen Mary is used on the West Coast as a tourist attraction and hotel.

Options include using the SS United States as a convention center, hotel, entertainment complex or just about anything else dignified enough to keep the ship floating and respect her history and the meaning she has for the maritime community.

Donations can be made via PayPal for individuals. Organizations are urged to contact the SS United States Conservancy. Fundraising and awareness efforts are already underway too at the SS United States Conservancy Cafe Press store where you can find everything from bumper stickers to coffee mugs and t-shirts.

Photos courtesy SS United States Conservancy


Historic cruise ship to be given a new life

It was and still is the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the U.S. The 53,330 ton SS United States that ran transatlantic sailings until 1969, setting speed records that have still not been broken today. Still, the ships fate seemed doomed with her next stop being the scrap yard.

Built from 1950-52, the SS United States operated uninterrupted transatlantic passenger service until 1969. But the ship was withdrawn from service and bounced around from one idea to another. At one point there was talk of making it into a floating time share-like ship. Later it was stripped of its fittings that that would become furniture in a North Carolina restaurant. Most recently the ship was slated to become part of Norwegian Cruise Lines American-flagged Hawaii fleet.

The SS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday it has purchased the legendary ocean liner, berthed in Philadelphia since 1996, from Norwegian Cruise Line and its parent company for $3 million and hopes to restore the ship to its original glory in an extreme makeover the likes of which has never been seen.

They have a long way to go though.

The annual costs of upkeep tops $800,000, the ship is full of toxic PCB’s, fire-resistant chemicals once commonly used in paint which must be removed, and the refitting price tag is high at $200 million.

“While we’ve already been talking with a number of investors, municipal officials and developers, we can take these conservations to the next level because we now hold title to the vessel,” said Susan Gibbs, conservancy board president and the granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs, the ship’s Philadelphia-born designer. “Our doors are open and we’re ready for business.”

Why bother?

This is a ship that carried President John F. Kennedy and actress Grace Kelly. Prince Rainier of Monaco, England’s King Edward VIII and former Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton were on board. This is a piece of history that once gone, we will never get back. Today’s cruise ships are built in a totally different manner in foreign shipyards. This one, the one that still holds the transatlantic speed record, was built in America. How many things can you say that about these days?

While private backers are being sought to fund the enterprise, donations are being accepted via the Conservatory’s website.

Flickr photo by Mihai Bjorn